Thursday, 18 October 2012

Importance of Training in Soccer

For many years, soccer has been a world famous game with a fan base that is unmatched to any other game so far. In the beginning the game was predominantly played by men, this trend has however changed in the recent past giving rise to wide female participation in the game. Everybody concerned with the game of association soccer (football) realizes that training is a necessary part of preparing for competition. Playing soccer itself is only one part of that preparation. There is a requirement to be fit to play, to work on correcting physical deficiencies and enhance individual strengths.

The basic purpose of training is to improve human capabilities in all their
manifestations. These capabilities are characterized in physical, physiological,
psycho-motor and psychological attributes. Their maximal expression, for example in fitness assessments, comprises limits to human performance, and training programmes must therefore be designed to raise these functional limits. The player may be deemed to be adequately fit when he or she has the capabilities to meet the demands of match-play in all its aspects. Further improvements in fitness will enable the player to operate at an even higher level of performance and match tempo.

   The ideal level of fitness is arguably never achieved. Athletes always strive to improve, to push their limits as far upwards as possible. As soccer makes demands on the majority of the body’s physiological systems, fitness for the game includes many factors besides competence in game skills and tactical awareness. A key aim in fitness for soccer is to enhance or maintain fitness in areas of strength while correcting weaknesses. In this way the goal of securing an optimal combination of fitness measures can be realized.

The process of training takes place in a dynamic context where short-term goals may change, often on an irregular or unanticipated basis. At the early stages the immediate aim may be to become fit enough to train more intensively, the more strenuous preparation later being orientated towards match-play. This situation may apply after a long recess or absence through injury. During the rehabilitation period a systematic programme of exercise is first needed before the individual can train again with the ball. The recovery process entails recurring cycles in which training is stepped up on a planned basis until the individual is ready to be integrated into team training.

Fundamental Concepts
A basic principle of training is that the biological system to be affected is overloaded. The training stimulus or stress presented is greater than that which the individual is normally accustomed to. Otherwise there is no requirement for the body to adapt and force the occurrence of this adaptation process. Adaptation entails functional changes in the skeletal muscles and other tissues that have been engaged in exercise. At molecular level the exercise stimulus switches on signal transduction processes that activate intra-cellular responses. Genes carry the genetic information encoded in DNA to build proteins and mRNA for several metabolic genes are acutely elevated after a single bout of exercise (Hawley et al., 2006). Alterations in ultra structure occur concomitantly with recovering from the session inducing overload.

As physiological adaptation takes place, the training stimulus is more easily tolerated. For fitness to improve further, the training stimulus must be raised to a new level for a renewal of the overload principle. It is clear therefore that the training process is progressive and goes through a spiral of overload – fatigue – recovery – adaptation. If the training is progressed too quickly, 'over training’ may be the result. This state is one in which performance falls rather than continues to improve. It can also be induced by training too much at any stage.

In the modern game (at any level) soccer training and conditioning is essential. Few sports are played on as large a playing field, lasting as long and without regular rest periods. Players cover 8-12 km during a match, consisting of 24% walking, 36% jogging, 20% coursing, 11% sprinting, 7% moving backwards and 2% moving whilst in possession of the ball. Soccer players posses excellent endurance with VO2max reported to range between 55 and 70 ml/kg/min in elite performers. The game is played at an average intensity close to the lactate threshold - approximately 80-90% of maximum heart rate.

When Training turns from Good to Bad

If vigorous exercise is undertaken too early in the normal training process, the player may be unable to cope and might even incur injury. As a result he or she regresses rather than improves. Even a well-trained individual may be overloaded too far and eventually succumb to injury if there is insufficient time for recovery between strenuous training sessions. The key to effective training is to experience the appropriate training stimulus at the right time. 

How Important is the Correct type of Endurance Training in Soccer?
The greater a player's aerobic capacity, the more ground they cover during a typical game. Additionally, improved endurance also increases the number of sprints completed in a game. By improving the VO2max of youth soccer players by 11% over an 8 week period, a 20% increase in total distance covered during competitive match play was manifested, along with a 23% increase in involvements with the ball and a 100% increase in the number of sprints performed by each player.

What about other forms of conditioning
Strength training now plays a major role in soccer. However, simply lifting weights with the traditional "3 sets of 10 repetitions" approach is not an efficient way to spend training time. Soccer requires a balance of explosive power and muscular endurance. Some players may benefit from increasing their lean mass but even they should focus on converting much of their strength into soccer-specific power. Strength training for soccer also helps to correct muscle imbalances. Soccer players in particular are prone to developing overly strong quadriceps in relation to their hamstrings and a well-formed strength plan can address this and prevent future injury.

Stretching for Soccer:
Stretching for soccer games is not a very new concept. Although stretching is very important in keeping your body flexible as you play the sport, the most crucial benefit of stretching is that it helps prevent injuries. Doing a few warm-up exercises before you hit the field can dramatically lower the chances of cramps, muscle tears, and other, more serious injuries. Soccer is an incredibly taxing sport on your muscles. All that running, kicking and diving puts a lot of stress onto your muscles, especially the legs.

With such a great amount of pressure constantly hitting your muscles, one of two things can happen: they tighten up, leading to cramps, or they weaken, which can result in major injuries. As much as your muscles are needed to move you up and down the field, they are also needed to support your frame. Without the muscle strength needed to help absorb the impact on your joints, there is a larger chance that the stress can tear your ligaments or fracture your bones. This is why stretching before a game of soccer is so important. Preparing the muscles and limbering them up allow them to better absorb the punishment they will be taking in the course of a game. If you are concerned about your own pregame warm-up, here are a few stretches you can do.

1. Lunges

The basic lunge stretches several muscles: hip flexors, gluteus maximus muscles and a little bit of the calves. To do a proper lunge, place one leg in front of you. Slowly lower your body by bending the knee in front of you, extending the reach of your legs when necessary. Be sure to keep your torso straight at all times. You should feel the calf of your rear leg stretching. After a few counts, bend your torso forward and lower your rear knee to the ground. This will stretch your hip flexors and gluteus muscles. Slowly stand up and repeat, switching the positions of your legs.

2. Standing Quadriceps Stretch

The quadriceps are muscles on the front portion of your thigh, and are among the largest muscles in your leg. You can stretch these important soccer muscles by lifting one foot behind you and grasping it with the opposite hand. For example, if you lift your left foot, hold it with your right hand. You should be able to pull your foot upward a little, stretching your quadriceps.

3. Sitting Hamstring Stretch

The hamstrings are muscles on the back of your thighs, and are also very important in soccer. Stretch them out by sitting on the ground with your legs spread apart. Turn your torso toward one foot, and then bend toward the foot as far as you can.

4. Knee and Ankle rotation:

The muscles around your joints will also need stretching. To stretch the muscles near the knee, simply bend your knees and rotate them in a clockwise direction. After a few counts, rotate them in the opposite direction. Do the same stretching for your ankles.

Some other exercises which also help in soccer game, fitness and improving player's individual skills are plyometrics, isometric, aerobic and anaerobic exercises. To view these, visit my other posts linked as

Isometric Exercises for Soccer
Plyometric Exercises for Soccer
Aerobic Exercises for Soccer
Anaerobic Exercises for Soccer

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